My installation, Yellow Box, is inspired by an invented narrative. In the story, a young woman has a penchant for collecting idealized and kitsch items. Her materialism is difficult to understand, but it is something ironically nurtured by her parents and also her consumer-driven society. She keeps a yellow pet canary in her room. This canary is intelligent and has magical powers. The teenager and the bird share a special bond that any caring pet owner could understand. The bird is undeniably a part of the family. The bird deeply feels every triumphant occasion and every somber moment. One day, for fateful reasons, the bird escapes the confines of the home. The bird’s magical endurance allows it to fly all over the world, and it experiences a loss of innocence as it realizes the current state of the planet. The bird is aghast to find there is not a single forest where it can plant its feet. It also cannot find another bird in the acidic skies that are now inhabited by supersonic monsters. The dead silence of suburban streets differs from the clamor of chaotic cities. Even worse, the resounding sounds coming from beastly industrial plots make the bird feel as if caught in a nightmare. Tired and sick, the bird returns home.
Something strange happens upon the bird’s arrival. The bird makes its way back discreetly into the room, but as soon as its feet touch the stand of its cage, it dies, falls, and instantly transforms into a spill that is also the origin of the chameleon-like color change in the room. The bird’s preoccupations, its internal knowledge, and its emotional angst flow from its body in a moment of magical catharsis. These waves of emotion travel through the room, activate the furniture, and make palpable the bird’s internal conflict.
The spiritual energy within the bird that causes the room’s color change is related to the idea of the ether. In Marina Warner’s book, Phantasmagoria, she explains that, in the eighteenth century, new discoveries were being made about the consistency of air. People tried to capture electromagnetic fields and light waves on film. [i] In some cases, doctors believed that the lights being captured on camera were physical manifestations of a spirit force or a soul. Today, these experiments have no validity, but I certainly relate to the idea that the spirit can be physically manifested. After the bird dies, the room is magically different. Everything is yellow, off kilter, and shaken, as if having been under the influence of an earthquake tremor.
In my installation, Yellow Box, the viewer is presented with an over-the-top theatrical situation. In the room, we see hutch furniture with curvilinear embellishments. The color yellow predominates in the room and can be found on the walls, on the furniture, and on all of the objects. The room is rendered strange by this coloration. It has come under the influence of the canary, implied by the birdcage and the color yellow. We see an excess of glossy objects that are covered in glitter. There is clear tension between the yellow room and the invasive green and black vegetation. Nature is bringing death, but an altar has formed around the birdcage indicating it is special within the narrative. The excess in materials combined with the color yellow heightens our awareness of human materialism. The yellow functions as a warning signal.
My title, Yellow Box, makes reference to a precautionary code within weather alert systems. A “yellow box” warns that present weather conditions may lead to severe thunderstorms. Meteorologists may literally draw a yellow box around areas that can potentially experience severe weather. In the narrative, we see the very beginnings of an adverse situation that can become disastrous. The yellow box of the story warns us about Earth’s symbolic climate conditions. The conditions may lead to something apocalyptic.[i] Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-first Century (Oxford University Press, USA, 2008).